Blake's 7 Poster Magazine

Gary Russell
First Published: Dec 1994 - May 1995
Page Count: 16
Availability: Currently unavailable

Trivia: The tagline to each issue was "The continuing adventures of the Liberator crew!", all except for issues four and six, which changed it to Scorpio. And, as this is the Anorak's Guide and it is Trivia, then issues one and seven omitted the exclamation mark.
The full title of the magazine was "Terry Nation's Blake's 7 Poster Magazine".
The magazine cost £1.50, except for the seventh and final issue, which was priced £1.75.

While it was generally well thought of, the Poster Magazine sadly wasn't thought of enough to last beyond the seventh issue, and so folded. Made from Marvel, the same publishing house behind Doctor Who Magazine, it also featured many of the same role call of names: Marcus Hearn as Assistant Editor (Associate Editor from Issue 3 onwards), Warwick Gray (Assistant Editor issues 3 - 5) and Gary Gillatt (Assistant Editor Issue 3, Associate Editor Issues 4-7), not to mention the Editor. Naturally, with the same approach behind it, the production and layout are generally excellent, with a variety of colours, fonts and images, and high-quality paper. Compare this to the original Monthly, which looked as if it was typeset on an old typewriter and printed onto loo roll and there's a gulf of difference. In fact, you can't help but wonder if they had decided to make this as a magazine proper whether it would have run for much longer - though the use of black and white/tinted photographs for parts of the last two issues perhaps suggest that resources from the programme were limited anyway.

But no matter how good something looks, it must always stand on its content. Maybe that's where the Poster Magazine falls, because it doesn't really have much of one, sadly. Each issue is basically an A1 sheet folded three times to make eight, double-sided A4 pages. Eight of those pages would open up into two, full-colour posters. All, that is, except for the first two issues, which were single (and therefore twice the size) posters. As this is such a guide, I'll list the subjects featured: original crew, third season crew with Servalan, Avon/Servalan, Soolin/Vila, Blake/Jenna, Tarrant/Cally and Dayna/Gan. The fair majority (at least seven out of the twelve) are "Press Shots", where the cast are posing to camera with a smile or "character look" on their face, like they're in the end credits of Hi-De-Hi or something. And errr…. that's it. If you like posters, then they're good, if you don't (and I'm indifferent, though Gan was never going to replace Justin Timberlake as the nation's favourite pin-up, was he?) then there's really not much else to say about 'em.

What else? Well, as this all folded together into a magazine, then the back page always became an ad for subscription. Then there were the covers (pictured on this page), which were sometimes sharp, and sometimes betrayed their limited sources. Then, perhaps most notably, were the text strips. Short stories over four pages, broken up with photographs, and the majority of their authors - Andy Lane, Paul Cornell, Kate Orman, Gareth Roberts and Justin Richards - becoming writers for the Doctor Who series of original novels. Of the other two, then (Va)Ness(a) Bishop is, at date of writing, reviewing for DWM, and I'm afraid I don't recall seeing Glenn Langford's name anywhere else. With the authors being, bluntly, fan writers who got given the chance (via The New Adventures) to become professional authors, then they're not stories written by professionals per se. However, they are a lot better than you would expect, certainly better than those in the old Monthly, and are charmingly self-contained and free of continuity that would perhaps blight full-blown novels by the same scribes. That said, their short word count does also make them seem inconsequential at times, and you wonder how, say, Kate Orman would have handled a full scale work. If the sight of Paul Cornell's name makes you think that he'd written a story where the Tharnn came back to menace the crew, and Vila travelled back in time to join forces with the cast of Grange Hill to defeat racism at a Sham 69 gig then you'd just be a piss-taking cynic. However, while Cornell can write a lot of good, his writing always seems to polarise, and he's more than capable of dross, too. Sadly, Issue 3's Widmanstatten's World (Jenna and Avon, with cameos from Blake, Zen and Vila) isn't him at his best. Also not faring so well - though by no means awful - is Ness Bishop's opening The Harvest (Blake and Avon). Perhaps the pick of the bunch were Glenn Langford's Suffer Little Children from issue 7 (Dayna and Tarrant) and Issue 6's Done Deal (Vila and Dayna), which was a far-fetched shaggy dog story by Justin Richards, but was more consistent and had a tighter ending than some of the others. That said, Faceless of Ghazar was also a diverting read (Issue 2 by Andy Lane, featuring Tarrant and Avon). Issue 4 contained You Can't Take It With You by Orman, an okayish Soolin (she got a big ass!) and Vila story, which seems only there to see Soolin get a kick in the vag*. Finally, Gareth Roberts's The Pirates of Pelaagos had by far the stupidest title, but was actually quite a decent write-up of an imagined adventure for Servalan and Travis.

All of which left us with two pages every issue to fill. Issues 1 and 2 had an article written by Mat Irvine, and was the sort of thing that inspired Adrian Rigelsford to claim the magazine "promises to chronicle the making of the series as never before" in his Making Of book. (Incidentally, Rigelsford is thanked in the credits of each issue, along with Gary Leigh. Andrew Pixley gets thanked alongside them in Issues 4 - 7, while Philip MacDonald joins in the kudos for the final two issues.) Even if you're not especially interested in how they filmed the model shots of the Liberator (and I can't say I particularly was), Irvine's chatty, friendly write-up makes it all very readable and gives an insight into just how rushed the time was on the series. "Cause and FX" may make you wince as a title, but this was certainly commendable stuff. The conclusion of Mat's article resulted in Issue 3 printing the first season press release of the show. While it may be of occasional interest (such as the guide giving Gan's home planet as "Zephron", something that never saw its way onscreen), generally speaking it couldn't help but feel like anything other than filler. From Issue 4 onwards, the production team just seemed to give up. No longer was there any pretence at chronicling the behind-the-scenes activities, from this point on, we got "character profiles", a similar idea of which is used as a small fun extra on this site, but was used as an eighth of every issue here. You might get a puerile snigger out the fact that Jenna's last line in the series was "They can't all come through that gap at once!" but generally you can't help feeling they could have used the pages for something better. For completeness' sake, the profiles were: Blake (Issue 4), Jenna and Vila (Issue 5), Avon (Issue 6) and Servalan (Issue 7).

In conclusion, then, there was a great deal of talent behind this magazine, yet somehow it seemed to produce something less than the sum of its origins. However, a Doctor Who Poster Magazine was also on the market at the same time, and that magazine's discontinuation would seem to suggest that Poster Magazines just aren't that popular. This is by no means a bad magazine, though, and is lovely to look at. It's just a nagging shame that the people behind it didn't pool their resources and produce something more…

* Incidentally, I've been informed by Kate Orman that the line "his huge foot twisted between her legs" isn't a reference to a kick in the crotch, and that it's the imaginings of my pervy mind. In fairness, though, as Agron is a misogynistic character, then I thought this was the most literal way of representing it. Kate actually wrote two more stories for the Poster Magazine before it folded, both of which can be found on the Penny Dreadful site. They are Alone and Silent and Beautiful World.